The natural rhythm of service delivery

The natural rhythm of service delivery

?Something there is that does not love a wall.? ~ Mending Wall, Robert Frost

Walls, or rules, when it comes to service, are an interesting combination. I recently dined at Kokkari in San Francisco and had one of the best service experiences in a long time. It was an effortless recital, both knowledgeable and interesting. In fact, it was just long enough to induce sales of wines, appetizers, and meals, but not so long as to induce boredom or intrusion.

I had dinner in another restaurant recently–no, not a hotel restaurant, but a restaurant that was rated pretty highly. The server seemed to be reading from a script, so I asked him why. He explained that the management required them to recite their specials in a certain way. I then asked why he wasn?t given the freedom to add his own personality when delivering the specials. He shrugged. Rules are sometimes made for the lowest common denominator, not the highest.

Pre-shift line-ups are usually the time when specials are given to the staff, accompanied by a taste if there are new items. This is also a time to preview discussions and descriptions of specials, as well as an opportunity to review other items on the menu, or possible add-on wines. When talking about wines, particularly from a long wine list, I usually tell servers to find two or three wines that they like and are compatible with many of the items on the menu so they can discuss them comfortably and with authority.

Service, I think, is like a beautiful ballet choreographed to the rhythm of the menu and the concept. It is a dance between the guest and server, with as much effort given to the preparation of the server?s delivery as to a dancer?s elegance on stage. Why do we like rules? Is it because they make life easier? More predictable? More uniform? Why do we like going out to eat? Is it because it is still one of the last social interactions where being served and catered to is socially acceptable? 

It is less important that service comes from the left and cleared from the right, as it is to have servers trained to emote the good will of their restaurant. That good will can only come from training and knowledge choreographed in the server?s style, not a style pushed upon them by management. So, in the words of Robert Frost, as true of some elements of service, ?Where it is we do not need the wall.?